U.S. in Talks to Form New Red Sea Task Force to Guard Commercial Ships in the Red Sea, Says White House

December 4, 2023 6:14 PM
USS Bataan (LHD-5) conducts landing craft utility operations alongside the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) in the Red Sea on Nov. 6, 2023. US Navy Photo

The U.S. is talking with other partner countries to possibly set up a maritime task force to protect ships in the Red Sea, the White House National Security Advisor said on Monday.

The possibility of a new task force, outside of long-standing anti-piracy Task Force 51 already established for anti-piracy, comes on the heels of Sunday’s attacks on two commercial ships in the Red Sea. National Security Advisor of the United States Jake Sullivan mentioned the talks during a White House press briefing Monday but said he had nothing to announce.

USS Carney (DDG-64) shot down drones fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen yesterday while responding to distress calls from three commercial ships, which Houthi missiles had targeted, USNI News reported. While the ownership of the three ships is obscured, as companies often use liability shielding making it difficult to parse out a true owner, the Houthis have publicly said they were targeting ships with Israeli connections.

Sullivan said the ships were linked to 14 different countries.

In a series of posts on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, Yahya Sare’e, the spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces, said that the country’s military forces had attacked M/V Unity Explorer with an anti-ship missile and M/V Number 9 with a sea drone. Sare’e said in the post that both ships are Israeli.

Yemen’s state-run news agency Saba also confirmed the Houthis seizure of Galaxy Leader.
Balticshipping.com, which identified M/V Central Park – a ship attacked by Somali pirates in the Red Sea – as Israeli-linked, lists Unity Explorer as owned by Tel Aviv-based Ray Shipping, USNI News reported. U.S. Central Command’s statement about Carney and the commercial ships did not identify them as Israeli-linked, which Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh reiterated at a Monday press gaggle. Singh also said the ships’ crews are from a variety of countries.

While Carney downed Houthi drones, the Pentagon does not believe the destroyer was the target. Carney’s commanding officer felt that the drones were a threat to the ship, which is why the ship shot them down, Singh told reporters. Neither Saba nor Sare’e discussed U.S. ships as targets of Houthi missiles or drones.

Although the Houthis have targeted Israeli-linked ships, or ships believed to be linked to Israel, as well as fired land-attack cruise missiles toward the country, the Pentagon continues to stress the conflict between Israel and Hamas has not spread widely in the Middle East region.

Sare’e, in a post from Nov. 19, said the Houthis would attack all ships that sail under an Israeli flag, are operated by an Israeli company or are owned by an Israeli company.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

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